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Old 06-12-11, 02:37 PM   #1
Reesh
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Hatching Plans: ALA's Big Ride Across America

Well, this is not my first post here, but when I rediscovered my former username I decided re-register in a bout of horror!

Anywho, I'm planning to ride with the American Lung Association across the USA next summer and I'll be looking for advice from the old touring pros on here. I'll be building a worthy bike before mid-winter I already have a road bike, and some have asked me why I won't just take that one, but it's a twitchy little carbon thing and more importantly it doesn't have any room/attachments for fenders! A couple of things worth mentioning:

1. The tour is fully supported. We are not required to carry much but ourselves on the rides.
2. Average mileage is 80 miles per day. Upper limit is 110 per day.
3. The tour is 3300 miles long and extends over 7 weeks including 8 days of rest.

I've been test riding a couple bikes so far, and my favorite has been the Co-Motion Nor'Wester. They seem to be getting great reviews and I was impressed by its lightness and buttery ride.

I have a host of questions that I'd love to have answered in any order!

Wheels:
As I will not be packing my gear along with me and I am ~145 lbs, what do you think the necessary spoke count should be? 32 or 36?
Are there any wheels you might recommend that are durable, fast and lightweight?
Perhaps you are in the lightweight and fast be damned category, if so what else might you recommend?
I'm a noob when it comes to incessant riding like this, and I've only ever owned my Bontrager race lites and mtb wheels, so I'm not really sure what I should be aiming for. The internet is rife with information about wheels for loaded touring, but I'm not really finding any info that appeals to my specific needs for this trip thus far.

Drivetrain/shifting:
I don't have much interest in bar end shifters and the Apex doubletap shifters seemed annoying to me on the test co-motion. I have brifters on my roadbike and I really love those. I remember having index shifting on my first gary fisher and then upgrading to a new fisher and there was trigger shifting but it was all done with my thumb. It is absolutely irritating! I suspect, then I'll stick with what I know.

I am intrigued by campy's ergo shifting as I have smallish hands. If I go with campy's shifters do I generally need to do an entire campy drivetrain? (not a bad prospect, but it might push the bike out of my budget!)

Which drivetrain groupsets can you recommend for my needs and that particular bike? I know for certain i will need a triple for some ludicrous climbs in the mix. I have 105/ultegra mix on my road bike and for the most part it's been great. But I've never been on it 80 miles day after day either

Anyway, I would love your feedback! Thank you
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Old 06-12-11, 02:52 PM   #2
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Ah yes! Another thing:

Brakes:
I'm tempted by disc brakes as we'll be riding those miles rain or shine, but some have advised against it because of the extra weight.
1. Is it worth the extra weight (or alternatively is the weight fairly negligible?)
2. Do you think that v-brakes will be just fine?

I'm definitely a lot more comfortable and confident servicing v-brakes than I am disc. Don't get me started on my hydraulic disc brakes on my mountain bike. The shop said they'd be cable pull discs in all likelihood, but nonetheless-- I'd have a lot to learn about maintaining them.

thanksthanksthanks
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Old 06-12-11, 03:08 PM   #3
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Given your description of the event I'd ride the road bike. If you must have something less sporty then go with a randoneering bike, but I definitely would not go to a bike designed for loaded touring. I'd probably go with lower gearing than it probably has currently.

I don't see a big need for high spoke count wheels for 145 pound rider on a sagged ride. I wouldn't even consider disk brakes.
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Old 06-12-11, 03:16 PM   #4
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Thanks for your response!

One of the other reasons for the new bike is to open up possibilities for other light touring. One of my former students did the very same ride on a cervelo that fit beautifully. I guess I'm just looking for something a little more comfortable than my trek for long distances + the possibilities of racks/fenders. I'm pretty psyched about a new bike, though. If you could build up a bike for this exact trip, what would it look like?
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Old 06-12-11, 03:42 PM   #5
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I see no point at all in running disc brakes for a ride like this. Modulate the v's on the downhills and they and the rims will be fine. The sand paper in your flat kit will take the sheen off if/as needed.

For a no load tour, 32 spokes is more than's needed.

Most tourers prefer a more upright riding position than offered on a typical road bike. Comfort issue with long daily mileage.

A moderately geared triple, 48 h 26 low, coupled to an 11-32 9 speed cluster, should get you up the hills with the pack and let you run flat out in the valleys. You might run out of rpm's with a tailwind, but wouldn't that be good.

After fit is settled, a quality set of belted, narrow to medium width tires would be in order. Depends on how much vibration damping you're after from the tires vs weight penality.
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Old 06-12-11, 06:22 PM   #6
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My granny gear on my Trek is a 30 and that was low enough for mountain climbing in the Adirondacks. Would it be advised to go lower if possible?

I'm going to see about trying a bike with some Campy ergo shifters just to see if it's worth the trouble, but it looks like their triple spreads are 30-40-50 at the lowest and I'm not sure I want to hack the drivetrain to pair the ergo shifters with shimano in back.
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Old 06-12-11, 06:37 PM   #7
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On a x-country group ride I doubt that you'll experience grades >7% of any length. I bet grades in the Adirondacks exceeded that considerably, but maybe not really long. If you feel comfortable pedaling up a 10 mile 7% grade with your current gearing, go for it. My reference is Wolf Creek Pass in CO from the west.

But, if you're gonna build this bike for use later on loaded tours, might want to do so with that in mind, and go ahead with lower gearing. Touring is not a race.
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Old 06-13-11, 02:31 PM   #8
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On a x-country group ride I doubt that you'll experience grades >7% of any length. I bet grades in the Adirondacks exceeded that considerably, but maybe not really long.
Not knowing the exact route of next year's ALA ride, you might be right; but consider that the TransAm has a 3 mile grade on the west side of the Blue Ridge Parkway that averages 10%. I think Clinch Mountain (still in Virginia) is about 5 miles, averaging 9%, and there's some nasty stuff in Kentucky that's pushing 20% for half a mile to a mile. I think the Appalachians have worse grades than the Adventure Cycling routes in the west, with the possible exception of California (specifically including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Washington). Lotta walking if you're over-geared.
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Old 06-13-11, 05:20 PM   #9
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I talked to my former student today and he said they some short steep climbs about 20%, particularly in the Cascades and in Pennsylvania. From what I understand, they stick to a fairly consistent route to make planning simple.

He rode a Cervelo RS fitted to be a bit more upright for the trip, then had it re-fitted for racing in the fall. He also rode with a 30T as his small ring, but I'll bet I'd be more comfortable with a 28T. I'm sold on the need for a triple. I've only ever had a triple on my Trek and I would rather keep it that way on a cross country ride.

I'm beginning to think a Nor'Wester set up for road riding might be the best bet. Any thoughts on a Campagnolo triple drivetrain? I really like their ergo shifters. Can I even switch out their little ring for a smaller one?
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Old 06-13-11, 11:35 PM   #10
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Hey, I did that ride in 2008! I can't answer your technical questions, but I can talk about things in general.

I rode a carbon road bike and had no problems at all with it. Most of the riders were on road bikes (some fancy racing bikes), a few touring bikes, a few mountain bikes, and one recumbent. The bike you ride doesn't matter as much as how comfortable you are on it, since you and your bike will be "as one" for weeks.

Enjoy the ride! It's life-changing!
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Old 06-14-11, 04:45 AM   #11
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It sounds like you are looking for an excuse to get a new bike.

Personally if I were picking a bike for that trip it would be a pure road bike, but probably with a triple.
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Old 06-14-11, 05:03 AM   #12
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Ha! I'm pretty sure I said that flat out (but I may have said that on another forum). Basically I have a great mountain bike that is gathering dust because of a move to the city and I wanted to get a road bike that was a bit more versatile that opens up possibilities for more touring/travel.

When I first started researching the trip, I was definitely under the impression that you'd want something more comfy and upright than a carbon bike. Now I'm beginning to know more. The possibility of fenders appeals to me.

I'm open to any and all advice suggestions. But yes, wanting new bike!

My other thought is to get the Bike Friday I always wanted.
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Old 06-14-11, 05:42 AM   #13
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When I first started researching the trip, I was definitely under the impression that you'd want something more comfy and upright than a carbon bike.
Everyone is different so obviously you need to do what works for you. That said, don't assume that the conventional wisdom with regard to a more upright posture is always the way to go for everyone.

Are you sure that more upright will be more comfortable for you? I know that I have not found that to be the case for me even when I am not riding much, but especially when on tour and riding all day every day. My road bike is my most comfortable bike and I try to make my touring bike as close as possible when it comes to riding position. They are both set up with the bars 4-5" below the saddle. I find the touring bike comfortable, but find the road bike supremely comfortable. I never ride the touring bike when the road bike will do the job.

If it was me I'd ride the road bike on this ride and get a touring bike later if you want to do loaded touring. That or buy a new road bike if you really want a new bike for this ride.

On a long tour I find that I am likely to be the most acclimated to riding in an aggressive posture that I ever will be. A more upright posture means more weight on the saddle and saddle comfort seems to be a common problem for cyclists on long tours.
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Old 06-14-11, 06:11 AM   #14
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All excellent points, thanks for taking the time to respond. As it turns out, msviolin appears to have done the trip on the same bike I have currently. I suppose on a budget, I could just get some new wheels and a better saddle (mine is garbage).
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Old 06-14-11, 09:49 AM   #15
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All excellent points, thanks for taking the time to respond. As it turns out, msviolin appears to have done the trip on the same bike I have currently. I suppose on a budget, I could just get some new wheels and a better saddle (mine is garbage).
What ever you decide to ride I hope it works out well for you and you have a great ride.
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Old 06-14-11, 12:33 PM   #16
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My other thought is to get the Bike Friday I always wanted.
BF is a fine touring bike, and packs nicely for transport. Add some aerobars to stretch out.

But if you're comfortable on your road bike for hours in the saddle like Staehpj1, might be the way to go for this long supported run. Configure the new bike strickly for loaded touring. Nothing wrong with having 3 or 4 or 10 bikes in the stable. You got lots of time to sort it out.
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